Brenda Dunne


Necessary preconditions for telepathy:
You have to be focused
You have to stop thinking

In 1979 Robert Jahn founded the PEAR laboratory (Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research) in the basement of Princeton University’s Engineering School. Set up to follow a few areas of inquiry in particular—mainly human-machine interactions, remote perception, and random processes—the interdisciplinary PEAR staff is made up of mathematicians, electrical and aerospace engineers, theoretical physicists, and experimental psychologists, among others. Together, the group hoped both to formalize its scientific methodology and to quantify data, to support the validity of these phenomena often relegated to pseudoscience.

According to the PEAR website, remote perception is “the ability of human participants to acquire information about spatially and temporally remote geographical targets.” Known in various disciplines as telepathy, this phenomenon was taken seriously enough by the United States government to employ more than twenty-three “remote viewers” at a time under a covert program called Stargate that lasted more than twenty years (under various names and divisions) and cost up to twenty million dollars. The program was declassified and cancelled in 1995. Though entirely unaffiliated with the Stargate program, Brenda Dunne and Jahn have been exploring remote perception for more than twenty-seven years, in an unconventional office filled with stuffed animals and strange apparatuses involving a motorized frog, a cascade of falling balls, and dated-looking number-generating machines. At the end of February 2007, Dunne and Jahn were preparing to close down the lab.

—Suzanne Snider


THE BELIEVER: Let me ask you about the name PEAR, because it includes the word anomalous—is that really accurate? Isn’t part of the point to show that these so-called anomalies are not anomalies at all?

BRENDA DUNNE: It’s a touchy issue. We use the word anomaly to avoid the word paranormal. An anomaly is something that’s normal that happens, but it’s something you can’t explain. And as such, it’s an appropriate name. These things do happen. We still do not have a comprehensive explanation. We have hunches, we have suspicions, we have hypotheses. But we are far from a full-blown theory that can explain and predict them.

The question that PEAR has been addressing from the beginning—Can consciousness have a measurable effect on physical reality?—has been a pragmatic one. Are we here as isolated little particles floating around in some random fashion? Or is there some underlying connection that ties it all together? Religion and science started out really as the same thing and they became separated. I think we need to return to the principles of the ancient alchemists, where the experience of knowing or being and the description of that experience are not seen as two separate things but as complimentary components of one whole holistic image. I regard the concept of complementarity that Niels Bohr came up with a century ago as perhaps one of the most brilliant insights of the human mind. Frankly, I find it much more impressive than E=mc2.

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Suzanne Snider is a writer based in Brooklyn. She is currently at work on a nonfiction book about a communal society divided into two adjacent factions.

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